Beautiful Mastectomy Scar Tattoo
02:11 PM
mastectomy scar tattoo.jpgI've gotten a number of emails in the past couple of years asking me about tattooing over mastectomy scars and nipple reconstruction, and I've referred breast cancer survivors to long-time practitioners, listed below, for this type of tattooing. [It's an issue close to my heart as my both mother and aunt have had breast cancer.] Beyond realistic tattooing in creating the look of the nipple & areola, decorative tattoos over these scars can be a beautiful option.

A perfect example is this work by tattoo artist David Allen, whose blog I've been a fan of for years. I talked to David about the tattoo and he gave me some interesting info on the process and procedure. His client, fellow New Yorker Adriana, also offered her thoughts on her tattoo.

Adriana was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at age 31 in September 1999. She had a modified radical mastectomy removing a 5cm tumor. At the time of the surgery, she had reconstruction and several follow-up surgeries after chemotherapy and radiation. As the radiation ruined her skin, she was unable to have a nipple reconstruction. Almost exactly 11 years to the date from her surgery, Adriana made an appointment for her first tattoo.

Adriana came to David with a basic idea of "vines or branches with flowers" that could "go across the scar." But because she knew the skin texture varied along the area, she was open to suggestions. Before her appointment, David picked out a number of floral designs but no matter how many photos he saw of the scar, he needed her presence to make the tattoo flow and fit her form. Here's how he described the tattoo process:

"After sizing and spending awhile figuring out placement, I realized I could mask the scar by pulling the eye away from a horizontal line, accentuate the curve of the implant and make sure the organic nature of the flower blended in with the most obvious areas of the scar tissue. The implant was directly under her muscle, as the fat layer was removed, so the transition from chest to implant was abrupt. Making sure the design blended the two was important.

Tattooing over the scar altered depending on the area. Towards the armpit, some of the fatty layer was intact, so I had to stretch like normal. The actual scar reacted normally with swelling and redness. But as soon as I started tattooing over the saline implant, the skin was already taut. So taut I had to turn my machine down and treat it with finesse, like I was tattooing an ankle bone. When broken down, it wasn't anything out of the ordinary."

David adds that he'd like to see Adriana again to darken the blacks and see how well it hid the scar. He says that he's never done this type of work before, but would definitely love to do it again.

As for Adriana, she had lived with what she saw as a disfigurement for ten years. David said that when she looked in the mirror, she was amazed and proud of what she saw, which was overwhelming for both of them. Adriana told him, "I feel repaired and whole for the first time in ten years. Incredible. I want to flash everyone to show them. It's a beautiful piece."

It's an inspiring story, and I'm grateful to Adriana and David for sharing it. 
See more of David's tattoo work here.

Noted studios who do do nipple & areola reconstruction as well as decorative tattooing over mastectomy scars:
If you know of other studios that do this work, please suggest them in the comments.



fabulous post, especially as i've just returned from accompanying a dear friend for a 2nd mammogram (not her 2nd ever, but one of those "come back next week, we need more images" scares). all's well fortunately!

beautiful tattoo.


Beautiful and amazing! Surely her tattoo will help her heal emotionally. Breast cancer is such a devastating disease even for the survivors, who often times struggle with their self esteem regarding their physical appearance, fearing others won't find them desirable anymore. Thanks for sharing.

beautiful and inspiring post, I'm sure you realize Oct. is breast cancer awareness month and this is a great tribute to surviving with style.

this is my mothers tattoo i was so young when she had this i am 15 now 11 years ago i was 4 and my sister was 1. she pulled through it for us and our family. i love you so much mom. im so blessed to ahve you in my life every day.

That's something very special.

I've been researching mastectomy tattoo's for almost a year now, and this is the most beautiful one I've seen. It just shows how one can evole emotionally and physically after being diagnosed with such a devasting disease. I'm looking for something similar, having had a mastectomy myself in 2007. I'm 31 years old now and feel ready to create something that I can feel proud of, look at every morning and think about what I've overcome, rather than what i've lost. You're an inspiration, thank you so much for sharing this. It's truley wonderful.

Best of luck for the future,

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